Ayn Rand, Stamps, and Inflation

by | Jan 18, 2024

Ayn Rand was a novelist and philosopher. Less well known is that she was also a stamp collector.

In her 1971 Stamp Journal essay “Why I Like Stamp Collecting,” Rand discussed why she became “hooked” on the hobby. The engaging essay offers several reasons including that stamp collecting serves as a “remedy for mental fatigue.” Regarding this Rand wrote:

Now, if I feel tired after a whole day of writing, I spend an hour with my stamp albums and it makes me able to resume writing for the rest of the evening. A stamp album is a miraculous brain-restorer.

She further wrote in the essay about finding “real little masterpieces of the art of painting” among stamps.

Not surprisingly, Rand in the essay also addressed related matters philosophical and political:

While the world politicians are doing their best to split the globe apart by means of iron curtains and brute force, the world postal services are demonstrating … in their quiet, unobtrusive way … what is required to bring mankind closer together: a specific purpose cooperatively carried out, serving individual goals and needs. It is the voices of individual men that stamps carry around the globe; it is individual men that need a postal service; kings, dictators and other rulers do not work by mail. In this sense, stamps are the world’s ambassadors of good will.

Stamp collecting gives one a large-scale view of the world … and a very benevolent view.

One feels: no matter how dreadful some of mankind’s activities might be, here is a field in which men are functioning reasonably, efficiently and successfully. (I do not mean the political set-up involved, I mean the technical aspects and skills required to deliver the world’s gigantic tonnage of mail.)

In April of 1999, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp featuring an image of Ayn Rand. The stamp’s face value of 33 cents was then the amount required for mailing a letter.

Less than two years later, the Ayn Rand stamp alone provided insufficient postage for a letter. In January of 2001 the letter postage rate had increased by a penny to 34 cents.

The letter postage rate increases continued over the ensuing years. In July of 2023, the rate reached 66 cents. That current letter postage rate means that it now takes two Ayn Rand stamps to mail a letter. The value of the stamp as postage has dropped in half since it was issued almost 25 years ago.

On Sunday, the letter postage rate will rise again, this time to 68 cents. Mailing a letter will then require two Ayn Rand stamps plus an extra two cents in postage.

The story of the decreasing postage value of the Ayn Rand stamp is one of many demonstrating the effects of monetary inflation in America.

With the impending rise in the letter postage rate, it is a good time to revisit a warning Ayn Rand presented in her 1974 essay “Egalitarianism and Inflation” republished in her book Philosophy: Who Needs It. Rand wrote in the essay:

Inflation is a man-made scourge, made possible by the fact that most men do not understand it. It is a crime committed on so large a scale that its size is its protection: the integrating capacity of the victims’ minds breaks down before the magnitude—and the seeming complexity—of the crime, which permits it to be committed openly, in public. For centuries, inflation has been wrecking one country after another, yet men learn nothing, offer no resistance, and perish—not like animals driven to slaughter, but worse: like animals stampeding in search of a butcher.

The cause of this inflation, Rand explained, was government leaving behind the restraint imposed by the use of gold as money in favor of printing money as it saw fit. Rand summed up the situation by describing government as the “one institution that can arrogate to itself the power legally to trade by means of rubber checks.”

Author

  • Adam Dick

    Adam worked from 2003 through 2013 as a legislative aide for Rep. Ron Paul. Previously, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Board of Elections, a co-manager of Ed Thompson's 2002 Wisconsin governor campaign, and a lawyer in New York and Connecticut.